A quick repeat: Burda 112 11/2015 the third

This top may look a little familiar. It’s Burda 112 11/2015 and I made an almost identical version in March 2021 as part of a wardrobe plan. It rapidly became one of my favourite garments because it’s warm and it goes with everything. Unfortunately the rather expensive wool-blend sweater knit fabric I used for it didn’t stand up to much wear. It pilled, and pilled, and pilled some more. It looked so disgraceful that I bought a sweater comb. Combing it removed an astonishing amount of black fluff – I’m talking a wastepaper basket full – but as soon as I wore it again the pilling returned. The fabric got thinner and thinner, and then a hole developed. Eventually it become too sad even for wearing around the house.

This version is made in boiled wool instead, and 100% wool at that. I know this fabric doesn’t pill because I’ve used it several times before, including for a grey version of this same pattern. It’s from Empress Mills and comes in a range of colours. The zip is harvested from the original top.

I made one change to the pattern this time which was to remove some excess fabric from the chest area. The previous version tended to form a fold just above the bust. I cut a diagonal slash in the pattern from centre front to the shoulder and folded a bit out, then straightened up the centre front line. It seems to have worked to get rid of the fold, but I’ll admit this version is a little harder to get into as a result. The boiled wool doesn’t have much stretch and it’s very close fitting.

Unlike most Burda patterns I make this one is not lengthened in the body or sleeves. The sleeves on the original are ridiculously long. Looking at this version I might even need to shorten them. The body is true to size, but I wanted a shorter version.

I’m very glad to have a new version of this one. And next week, back to the 1980s.

All the details: Vintage Vogue 1652 innards and wearability

I’ve been banging on about this dress for weeks but this is the last post about it, I promise. It’s an old Vogue pattern from 1985, number 1652 by Claude Montana.

My version is made in black satin-backed crepe. Here’s a quick reminder of what it looks like.

It turned out to be one of the most difficult projects I’ve done in a while. The style looks simple – raglan sleeves, wrap front, hood, a few pleats. But the the pleats and the edge finishes are very fiddly and there are also some clever tucks at the neck that are sewn differently on each side of the dress. The instructions for those are technically correct. The facings on the inside of the dress have the ‘right side’ of the contrast fabric visible. And as it’s ‘contrast fabric’ not ‘lining fabric’, the pattern diagrams use the standard ‘right side of main fabric’ colour for all diagrams of the tucks whether they’re shown from the inside or the outside the dress, rendering the two sides completely indistinguishable. Like I said, it’s technically correct. And of course I sewed the right-hand side tucks inside out the first time because I interpreted the diagram wrong. As soon as I put the dress on it was clear they were wrong though, and it was easy to fix.

And now for some pictures of the details.

The pleats are made over the seams in the hood and sleeves and then held in place by stitching in the ditch. I didn’t think it through and didn’t finish my seam allowances before making the pleats, and afterwards it’s almost impossible to do. Doesn’t matter on the hood, because it is lined, but the sleeves aren’t. This picture also shows the top-stitching on the raglan sleeve seams, which seems to be there purely to hold the neck facing down. At least, it looks exactly like the sort of thing I often do to tame an unruly facing, only I stitch in the ditch to try to hide it rather than making it a feature. I’d always assumed this was a lazy shortcut that could be avoided if I pressed the facings a bit better, but here it is on a serious designer garment so I’m feeling pleasingly vindicated now.

The centre back and side seams are flat felled to give a nice clean interior finish. The hems are tiny, no fun at all to sew in bouncy polyester crepe. I presume this finish matches the one on the original garment, but I’ve reason to think that was made in wool doubleknit so a narrow hem wouldn’t be an easy option there either. Mysterious. If I ever make this again I might increase the hem allowance.

The sleeves are finished with real opening cuffs which is a nice touch. They’re very skinny though, or else I have big hands.

Another couple of unusual features below: the velcro closure on the front and the method of joining the facings to the body. The facings are stitched to the body wrong sides together, then the facing edges are are trimmed back close to the stitch line and the outer layer turned in to make a narrow hem over the top of the facing. This was a very slow, fiddly process involving lots of hand basting. It’s completely impossible to turn the hem in neatly where the edge has a concave curve, and the pattern provides a helpful extra piece to sew on along that section to form the hem instead. It’s just about visible in the picture. They call it a ‘gusset’, which I always thought of as something that goes into an armscye or crotch seam. Yes it’s wonky. This is the best I could do after much unpicking and retrying, and it’s not very visible when worn.

Sarah Webb (@sarahjw70 on Instagram) sensibly suggested attaching the facings the conventional way and then top-stitching instead. I wish I had followed her advice! The finish above makes for a flat and well-behaved edge with an attractive border of the outside fabric on the contrast side, but it took a whole evening and I think the normal way would be quite acceptable, especially if the inside isn’t a dramatically contrasting colour.

Here’s a couple of photos of the inside at the top. There’s a little button there for a thread loop on the top corner of the underneath of the wrap to hook onto, so there’s no danger of the wrap front revealing anything it shouldn’t at the top.

After a day of wear I got annoyed by the lapel of the outer front flapping about when the hood was down, so added a tiny hook and eye on the other side to hold that in place too. That front isn’t shifting anywhere now.

And here’s the inside of those amazing sleeves. Thick shoulder pads, and a bit of wadding tacked to my shamefully unfinished seams to help the sleeves keep their very curved shape.

And that’s it. I did wear it to work one day, and no one noticed! Not sure if that means it’s less out there than I thought or they were all being very polite. Anyway it’s wearable for days when all I’m doing is sitting at a desk. It needs a wide elastic belt to make it sit right with this slippery fabric – I tried with a webbing belt and it slid everywhere. And it’s very warm.

My next project is a very plain Burda sweater with only four pattern pieces that I’ve made before. It’ll be a nice change.

Channeling my inner Grace Jones: vintage Vogue 1652 by Claude Montana

A woman wearing a black hooded dress, sunglasses, and boots poses in a wood. The dress has elaborate sleeves and a wrap front.

This dress is the least practical item in my 80s wardrobe plan but definitely the most 80s. It’s vintage Vogue 1652, a design by Claude Montana from 1985. Here’s the envelope art.

A photograph of a vintage sewing pattern envelope. On the left is a photo of a model wearing a black and brown hooded dress with the hood up, on the right a sketch of a woman wearing the same dress in yellow with the hood down.
Vogue 1652 from 1985 envelope art

I have searched and searched but haven’t found any contemporary images of this style other than the Vogue Patterns envelope photo. My best guess is that it is from the Montana autumn/winter 1984/1985 collection because that one contained several dresses and coats with similar pleating details on the arms, and at least one wrap dress with a hood, but the exact style remains elusive. The Vogue pattern itself was published in 1985 so the date is plausible.

It’s very reminiscent of the hooded dresses Grace Jones wore in A View To A Kill, also from 1985, although of course hers were by Alaïa.

A woman wearing a black hooded dress, sunglasses, and boots poses in a wood. She is looking over her shoulder.

My dress is made in black satin-backed crepe from Croft Mill. At the time of writing it’s still available here. I used the satin side for the contrast facings. I got very lucky with this one because I didn’t order quite enough fabric to cut the facings wrong side up, but Croft Mill sent such a generous cut that it all worked out. I only have scraps left.

A woman wearing a black hooded dress, sunglasses, and boots walks towards the camera. The satin dress lining is visible.

Here’s the back view. This really shows off those 80s shoulders. There are extra thick pads in there, and I added some wadding lower down to help the sleeve keep its shape. It’s not all padding though because they looked huge even before the pads went in. It’s the cut of the sleeve and shoulder that does it.

A woman wearing a black hooded dress stands with her back to the viewer. The dress has pleats on the hood and sleeves, and large shoulder pads.

The hood is surprisingly flattering and stays put very well. But here is the dress with it down. The big lapel doesn’t sit so well in this position.

A woman wearing a black dress, sunglasses, and boots stands looking to one side. The dress has a large satin lapel.

I added my usual 5cm length to the bodice and sleeves, and another 5cm to the skirt length, which it definitely needed to end in the same place as on the model. The hem allowance is 15mm so there’s no possibility of letting it down later if it’s too short.

This was a single size pattern so I also added a bit to the width below the waist. I normally trace a size larger on the hips in a multi size pattern so none of this was a surprise. I wasn’t quite sure if I should make the wrap front wider or not as I was adding to the hips. I did, and it seems to have worked OK. I can’t say it sits in place perfectly because it’s a narrow wrap skirt in a slippery fabric so of course it has its moments, but it’s not unwearable.

I am intending to make a belt to go with this from a Burda pattern, but in these photos I’m wearing a purchased one. It was a lucky find because it has a certain similarity to the one on the pattern envelope photo.

A woman wearing a black dress, a
wide belt, and sunglasses adjusts her hair. She is standing in a wood.

So the question is will I actually wear this? It’s a lot of look but it’s also a lot of fun, and unlike many fancy dresses I’ve made it’s comfortable. With a black slip underneath even the slightly fussy skirt isn’t a problem. The one thing it lacks is pockets. I’ve been wearing a pouch clipped onto my belt to deal with that. I’ll have to try it at work and see. I suspect it might also be wearable as a jacket over trousers.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.

Slogging away

I’ve been busy for the last few weeks on this vintage Vogue pattern by Claude Montana, 1652 from 1985. I haven’t been able to find a photo of this one other than the pattern envelope, but it’s gloriously 80s.

The pattern envelope picture doesn’t show the back but those pleats in the sleeves are repeated on the hood.

I had a lot of trouble deciding on fabric for this. Depending on fabric it could vary between very dressy and very casual. I have a persistent mental image of this made up in grey sweatshirting with a brightly coloured lining, but I fear that would look too much like a dressing gown to be wearable out of the house; I don’t want to be thrown out of the supermarket for being improperly dressed. Aiming to avoid that effect I went for the polar opposite with satin backed crepe.

The dress is double layered in the hood and the deep front facings which turn out to form a lapel on the right front, and can be made in a contrast fabric. My plan was to use the satin side of the fabric as the contrast.

Cutting this out was a challenge. The pattern pieces are huge and asymmetric; it has to be cut on a single layer. In addition I hadn’t thought very carefully about my decision to use the wrong side of the fabric for the facings, and bought the amount of fabric required for the version of the dress without contrast facings. When I came to lay out the pattern pieces I realised that I needed extra length to cut the facings wrong side up. The fact that I’d also lengthened the dress by 10cm made it worse. Luckily Croft Mill had sent an exceptionally generous cut of fabric – there was something like an extra half metre – and I just managed it.

Here’s a closeup of those sleeve pleats. The sleeves on this dress are distinctly odd and I haven’t yet decided if it’s intentional design or just slightly annoying to wear. Maybe both? I measured the sleeve and decided they would probably come up long, but lengthened them anyway because self doubt, which is why my trousers have very deep hems.

I’m glad I added the length because even with the extra the sleeves seem to settle with the cuffs higher than I’d expect. Looking at the pattern photo I am still not sure what the intended length is. The model in the photo has her sleeves pushed up to accommodate her long gloves, and the one in the sketch has one arm partly behind her back and the other one so foreshortened by the angle that I can’t tell where the sleeve ends.

Here’s the back of the hood. This pattern is very difficult to get a sense of on a dress form. It needs a head and arms to sit right.

But as yet the facings and closures aren’t attached so this is the best I can do. There’s a lot still to do, including making a narrow hem all the way around the front edges in fabric that doesn’t press nicely. I may be some time on this one.

Wearing a rectangle: Vogue 1567 skirt

This is not a skirt for fading into the background in. It’s Vogue 1567, a Paco Peralta design from 2017. The original sample was made up in red satin; mine’s plain black cotton poplin, but it still brings the drama while being slightly more practical to wear than satin.

I’ve been feeling uninspired by Burda for the last few months, and Vogue’s new releases haven’t appealed either. But I do have a collection of older Vogues that I’ve never got around to making up, and this is one of them. I wish I’d got to it sooner; it turned out to be a quick and interesting project with a great result. I should say it was only quick because instead of painstakingly binding all the seam allowances according to the instructions I whizzed them through the overlocker instead.

The main feature is the origami pockets. The construction is fun to do and I can report they are actually practical for holding stuff. Nothing slips out when I sit down and they hang fairly well even when loaded. These things are important. And here’s the obligatory ‘if I spread out the pockets my skirt is really a rectangle’ shot.

The picture above also shows off what I think is the one flaw in the pattern: the skirt front is almost completely without shaping. The skirt is very slightly longer than the waistband and supposed to be eased on, but even with that there’s not a lot of stomach room and consequently my version tends to pull up at centre front. It wouldn’t be difficult to add a bit of width and a couple of darts next time though.

The back closes with an invisible zip and a hook and eye, very necessary to take the strain at the top of the zip. I made my usual Vogue size, ie one down from what the chart recommends, and that meant almost no ease in the waistband. However as the skirt is big and heavy and the waistband needs to sit at the natural waist I think that was the right choice. And talking of sizing this one runs really long. I’m 5’10”/175cm tall, I did not lengthen it at all, and the back corners are ankle length on me.

That zip gave me a hard time. I don’t know if it was a different brand to normal but it didn’t feed nicely through my invisible zip foot. I had to rip it out three times before I finally got it inserted without the skirt ending up gathered onto the zip tape. Other than that this was a remarkably painless project.

A slightly better view of the back. I’m wearing it with the top from the same pattern, of which more another time.

I’m quite tempted to make this again in a wool for winter. Thanks to my husband for the photos!

The end at last: Burda 119 10/2012

This is the very last item in my current wardrobe sewing plan, and now I think I’m done with sewing with a plan for a while. It’s Burda 119 10/2012, a close fitting v necked long sleeved top. I chose it because I thought having a layer to go under the summery v necked short sleeved dress might make it wearable into the autumn. I also thought the top might be wearable with jeans. In these photos I’m wearing it with my straight legged black denim trousers from the plan.

Here’s the line art. It’s a very low cut design which means the neckline doesn’t show when worn under the dress. Despite this it stays in place beautifully – no worries about bending forward. The fabric probably helps. It’s John Kaldor Isabella wool/elastane jersey in charcoal. Super stretchy and quite warm, highly recommended. I got mine from Sew Essential but I’ve seen other fabric shops stock it.

Burda 119 10/2012 line art, burdastyle.ru

I made a right mess of tracing and cutting this one. I somehow missed adding the placement marks for the front pieces and ended up guessing where to attach them, getting it completely wrong, and then having to rip out overlocked seams in black thread on black fabric. I also got immensely confused as to which side of the front wrap goes on top. The two fronts are not mirror images – the side that goes underneath isn’t full length. I cut out the larger, top, piece first, suddenly thought that I’d done it the wrong side up, hacked it down to be the under piece and then realised I had been right the first time. I didn’t want to waste fabric by cutting new front pieces so my shirt ended up with the right front on top although Burda’s has the opposite. What threw me is that women’s clothes normally close right over left.

There’s not a lot to see on the back view, but I do like Burda’s technique for the back neckline. It’s finished with a narrow stretch binding strip turned to the inside and top-stitched down, which is something I often see in ready to wear. I’m less keen on the hems. The hem allowance given for the sleeves is 6cm, which was impossible to sew with the machine – I couldn’t reach inside the very narrow sleeve far enough to sew close to the edge without the whole thing getting caught up around the presser foot. I ended up trimming the sleeve hem allowance back quite a bit to avoid hand hemming. I’m not sure what the function of such a deep hem was; I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

While I doubt I’ll wear this on its own much – I don’t want to blind people with the glare from my pasty chest skin – I think it’ll be a useful under layer. But now I’m off to sew less practical and more fun things for a while. Thanks to my husband for taking the photos!

Change of direction

For about the last year I’ve been steadily sewing through a couple of wardrobe plans, with a bunch of pieces designed to mix and match. I rarely wear colour so I’ve been sticking to black, grey, and white so everything goes with everything. A couple of weeks ago I finished the last piece, a fairly plain black v neck top – photos to come – and started thinking about what to do next.

While I’ve made some pieces I really love from the wardrobe plans, the whole mix and match thing isn’t working as well as I expected. I don’t mix my separates up much: for each bottom I know the top that goes with it best, and rarely pair it with anything else. But it is nice not to have wardrobe orphans, so perhaps the solution is to sew outfits rather than whole wardrobes. And that has the advantage that it’s slightly easier to add a bit of colour…and after a year of grey even I’m ready to introduce some variation.

I cautiously set out with Vogue 1567, a Paco Peralta design which comprises a boat neck knit top and a dramatic skirt.

Vogue 1567 line art: a dolman sleeved top and draped skirt

Here’s the result. Dress form photos only because I haven’t had a chance to do modelled ones, but I’m really excited to wear this.

A dressform wearing a blue and black striped top and a long black skirt stands in front of a bookcase

Admittedly the skirt’s black. This is because it’s a huge fabric hog and I already had a suitable length of black poplin in my stash, but I haven’t made a coloured top for…well, I can’t actually remember.

I’m also planning a yellow dress, a green jacket, bright blue trousers. There’s a bit of white in the scheme too because it’s bright. I’m not going too overboard: the blue and green fabrics have been lurking in my stash for years.

Blue, yellow, green and white fabrics on a grey tile floor

We’ll see how long this lasts.

The refinement process

One of my favourite designers is Rick Owens. Unfortunately pieces of his post-apocalyptic vision are seriously expensive to buy, and even the more basic and wearable designs are pricey. One of these basics is a skinny wool knit t shirt with an exposed back seam, a deeply curved raw hem, and extra long sleeves. I made a knockoff of it a couple of years ago and have worn it so much it’s now starting to look a little sad. Here it is when it was just made.

The neckband has stretched and gone wavy since then. I made it too long right from the start and only aggressive steam pressing ever made it sit flat. I’ve also never been 100% happy with the shape of the hem; it’s a little too long. So this is version two, made out of the same John Kaldor Isabella wool jersey as the first one, with a shorter neckband and reshaped hem.

Weirdly it seems to fit better too, but I think that’s because I’ve changed shape rather than any improvement I made to the pattern.

I only made it a couple of weeks ago and have worn it four or five times already so this is a definite win! Thanks to my husband for the photos as always.

Closet Core Patterns Blanca Flight Suit modelled photos

A woman in a black jumpsuit and yellow trainers leans against a bench

I posted about this jumpsuit last week but now I have photos of it on me, thanks to my husband, and it’s always easier to talk about fit when there are pictures to look at. This is Closet Core Patterns’ Blanca Flight Suit. I normally stick to Burda and Vogue patterns, with occasional diversions to Style Arc, but I had a clear idea of the sort of jumpsuit I wanted to make and even with ten years of Burda back issues I couldn’t find one with all the right details. Blanca had everything I was looking for, so I decided to risk an unfamiliar block and sizing system, and sprung for the paper pattern. Here’s the line art:

Technical drawing of a  jumpsuit  with various sleeve and arm options
Blanca flight suit line art, closetcorepatterns.com

It comes with several options to change the look up a bit, although nothing radical: short or long sleeves, two belt versions, two breast pocket versions, optional tabs for tapering the leg and optional press studs for tapering the arm. I added the optional tabs and press studs on mine and did the breast pockets with zips, the buckle belt, and the long sleeve. A jumpsuit is a big project so I wanted to be able to wear it a few different ways. Below is with wide sleeves and trouser legs.

A woman in a black jumpsuit and yellow trainers sits on a bench

I think one of the cleverest features about this is the back. There are top stitched pleats to give a little interest and extra reaching room. And it does need it: this is designed to be fairly snug, especially on the hips. (Excuse the keys in the pockets in the picture below).

Now obviously it would have been sensible to make a toile before diving into a big project with a pattern company I’d not tried before, especially as they have their own sizing system. But my sewing time is limited, so instead I carefully consulted the very detailed table of finished garment measurements provided to choose a size and decide on adjustments.

I ended up making the sizes my body measurements put me in (sizes plural because I am more pear shaped than the Closet Core block) but that was because my fabric is slightly stretchy; it’s Empress Mills’ 7.5oz premium denim. I added 5cm length to the bodice and sleeves, and 6cm to the leg. The body length has come out fine overall but the waistband is lower than I expected; definitely below my natural waist. And I wouldn’t want the legs any shorter.

I was slightly surprised by quite how close fitting it turned out. I knew there wasn’t any ease at the hip, but from reviews I’d read I’d expected the bodice to be more blousey. It’s not a bad thing, but I’m still debating if I can safely wear it to work. And if I made this again in a nonstretch fabric I’d size up one. As it is, it requires a slight wriggle to get on but once there it’s comfortable.

Here it is with tapered arms and legs. I wasn’t expecting to like this look as much as the wider option but in fact I think it works.

Despite the sizing surprise I’m very happy with the way it’s come out. I even found myself browsing the Empress Mills denim section to see if any of the other colours the fabric comes in caught my eye for a second version. But as I’m still slogging my way through my wardrobe sewing plan, that’s going to have to wait a while.

All the hardware: Closet Core Blanca flight suit

This is the Blanca flight suit from Closet Core Patterns. It wasn’t on my original wardrobe sewing plan, but it fits in well with the other pieces. And I wanted a project that would make use of one of my birthday presents: a hand press. This gadget makes installing press studs (or rivets, or grommets) absolutely painless. Each type of hardware needs a different set of dies which screw into the press, but once they’re on, installing hardware takes seconds and requires very little strength. No more loud hammering noises, and it sets the studs perfectly straight every time. The only problem is that it’s so simple it’s all too easy to get overconfident and install a press stud on the wrong side of the garment. Luckily there were no disasters on this project.

Blanca has press studs on the sleeves which can be used to turn the wide sleeve into a tapered one.

And tabs on the ankles which can be used to taper the leg. The pattern calls for buttonholes and buttons here but I wanted to keep things consistent, so more press studs.

It’s a very well thought out pattern with a lot of options. I went for all the bling with the zipped breast pockets and the buckle belt.

I struggled a bit with the zips on the pockets and my topstitching is distinctly wobbly. I probably would have done better with lighter weight zips. But these were a good match for the teeth on the centre front zip.

It took me a lot of searching to find the buckle. Once I figured out the right search term (surcingle, if like me you didn’t know) they’re plentiful on eBay. They seem to mainly be used for horse blankets of all things.

I was complaining about my inability to sew good belt loops the other week. These ones aren’t bad. I made them as flat as I could with the folding in three method, and kept the turn under short. I didn’t hammer them but pressed them as hard as I could before sewing them on. Still not perfect, but better than the last lot.

There’s just one thing I’d like to change about the pattern, but I’m not sure how. The underlap for the front zip has an overlocked edge that’s visible when the collar is open. That edge needs to be pretty flat so replacing it with another seam wouldn’t be great. Perhaps bias binding on the edge?

Modelled photos coming soon I hope.